The crisis is having a devastating impact on essential public services such as education. Until 2009 the public expenditure on education was approaching the European average, reaching 5.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Since then central and regional government have been brutally cutting their education budgets, leading to a 30.5 percent drop in spending between 2010 and 2014. This takes us back to spending levels of decades ago, when state education was not available for 16 year olds, and when there was no universal early years education (3-6 year olds).
In just one year, between January 2012 and 2013, we have lost 24,957 teaching jobs in non-university state education, even though there’s growing demand for state education which has absorbed 80,000 additional students. To the above losses must be added the removal of 4,321 teaching posts in state universities. In just one year, state education has lost nearly 30,000 employees, and around 60,000 in the last three years.
The immediate consequences are on the quality of education. The number of students per classroom has increased, preventing the deployment of two classroom teachers, something that has been widespread in subjects like languages, or mathematics. Library hours, educational support, school and additional activities and teaching time, have been reduced drastically.
In universities budget cuts come on top of increases in university fees and a brutal decline of scholarships. We are last place in Europe (of the original 15 member states) in terms of student access to scholarships. In Spain just 23 out of 100 have access to some kind of state support. No wonder 30,000 abandoned university studies.
The same push to force users to pay a growing share of the cost of public services, is being applied in education. Fees are increasing for university students and early years education, while new ones are being created for post-secondary level vocational education. Despite this, many students are left with without course places.
Subsidies for food, to buy textbooks and school supplies are being cut, while tax credits are maintained for the purchase of uniforms, or learning languages. Stealing from the poor to give to the rich is an increasingly widespread habit among our rulers.
Spain’s education reforms represent a setback that will see future generations sacrificed by a selective, segregated and ideologically retrograde education system.
State education is facing increasing obstacles and difficulties in ensuring the universal right to education and equal opportunities from birth. The partisan, ideological education reforms demonstrate the transformation of a right of every person in our country – to education – into a product subject to market laws, to deliver corporate profits. And a product that is better or worse depending on whether or not you can afford it.
Spain’s education reforms take the country back fifty years, to when we were living in a catholic-dominated dictatorship and mired in educational misery.
Education should be exempt from partisan confrontation, protected from the effects of the crisis, preserved from the destruction and fracture we see today in Spain. Education policy should be developed through agreement, negotiation and consensus.
But we don’t need education reforms, rather more resources and agreement on strengthening equality of access, which any educational system should guarantee all its citizens.
This is why, on October 24 education workers will go on strike, families will fight for a better future for our children. To defend an education system with the necessary human and material resources and to end the infamous games played by ministers, like Jose Ignacio Wert, who believe that by writing a law it’s problem solved. The education law is stillborn and the longer it is lingers among us the more rot and infection there will be in the social fabric of the country.
*Fundacion 1º de Mayo is a union-backed think tank
Translation/edit by Revolting Europe